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Sunderbans: Hindu devotees worship Muslim goddess to protect them from Tigers

The terrain is hard to live on and the native people rely on Bon Bibi to help them through the hardships

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Goddess Bonbibi
Goddess Bonbibi in Sunderbans. Image source: beingkinetic.wordpress.com
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  • Bon Bibi is the “Lady of the Forest”
  • She protects travelers and workers in the jungle
  • Bon Bibi reminds the people not to take more than they need

Bon Bibi is the “Lady of the Forest.” She is the protector of those who venture into the nature setting. The story goes that she was brought to the Netidhopani forest, which is located in the western edge of Sundarbans jungles. History says, that she hails from Saudi Arabia and her father, who was a trader, left her in the forest. It was her step-mother who requested that the child be left in the forest, and her father followed orders.

Later on, she became the protector of all who enter the forest. It makes no difference if you are Muslim, Hindu, or Christian; all who enter the forest pay their respects to Bon Bibi. Bhabotaron Paik the forest guard says, “Each time we go to the jungles we make a promise to Ma Bon Bibi: that we will not take more than we require from the forest, or else we antagonise her”.

Bon Bini statue resting in a tree in the forest. Wikimedia Images.
Bon Bini statue resting in a tree in the forest. Wikimedia Images.

According to Firstpost.com, Bon Bibi’s temple is at the entrance of the forest preserve that Paik works at. Every day, as part of his routine, he first visits the temple and pays his respects. Nearby there is a small freshwater pond that the forest department constructed for wildlife. The Bengal tigers, frequent this area that is across from a heavily fenced in office area.

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A board near the water has postings that tell the usual hours that the tigers come to drink. The pug marks and cameras located at the watch towers can track their movements. Years ago, all of these efforts were futile when Debnath Mondal, a tiger rescuer, was attacked by a tiger near to Bon Bibi’s temple, said the Firstpost.com report.

At night it is pitch black. Theater performers reenact the story of Bon Bibi, and many gather near the shrines to watch the performances. To them, it is also a way to show their respect to Bon Bibi and show the solidarity among everyone. Many keep statues of the deity in their bags, or somewhere on their person. Nityanand Roy Karmakar, a forest ranger, says “The goddess enlightens people to go back as soon as their requirement is fulfilled, that is keeping the order of the jungles.”

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The terrain is hard to live on and the native people rely on Bon Bibi to help them through the hardships. Freshwater and saltwater are constantly mixing and dry areas get washed away by large waves. This makes it difficult to draw boundaries and put up fences to divide humans and nature; forcing them to coexist. The people in the area never hesitate to thank Bon Bibi for all she does.

-prepared by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @abby_kono

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  • Aparna Gupta

    This is an example of religious harmony despite of increasing religious tensions in our country.

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Hindus In Delhi Push For A Temple On The Ruins Of a Mosque

The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

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Supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad gather during a rally in New Delhi, Dec. 9, 2018. The group gathered thousands of supporters to demand the construction of a Hindu temple on a site where a mosque was attacked, demolished in 1992. VOA

Tens of thousands of hardline Hindu protesters marched in New Delhi on Sunday, calling for a grand temple to be built on the ruins of a destroyed mosque in a flashpoint Indian city.

Trident-waving devotees clad in saffron filled a huge parade ground in the Indian capital under tight security, where speakers warned Prime Minister Narendra Modi they would not let up until the temple was sanctioned.

Some of Modi’s supporters feel the Hindu nationalist leader has not done enough to raise a shrine at a site in Ayodhya, a city believed by many to be the birthplace of the deity Ram.

The site was home to a medieval mosque for 460 years until Hindu zealots tore it down in 1992, kicking off riots across India that left thousands dead, most of them Muslims.

Its future has been tied up in courts for decades but some hardliners want Modi, who is seeking reelection in 2019, to push parliament to guarantee the temple by law.

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“The gathering here is telling you that Hindus won’t sit back until the temple is built, and our wishes are respected,” said Champat Rai, the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) group that organized the protest.

Demonstrators chanting “Praise be to Ram” packed the Ramlila Maidan, a vast ground capable of holding more than 50,000 people, and filled the surrounding streets.

Some carried maces and tridents — weapons traditionally wielded by Hindu gods — and traveled great distances by train and bus to reach the rally.

“We have come here to protect our religion and Hindu pride. We want a temple for our Lord Ram,” Hitesh Bharadwaj, a teacher from Delhi’s satellite city Noida, told AFP.

The hardline VHP has applied pressure on Modi in recent weeks, staging a huge show of force in Ayodhya itself last month.

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Photo credit: theguardian.com

A close ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the group is spearheading a push to raise the Ram temple, and is calling for more protests as the premier prepares to go to the polls by May.

The BJP was on the margins until the 1980s when its top leaders, including Modi, backed a growing movement for the construction of the Ram temple.

Its advocates want parliament to introduce a law bypassing legal hurdles blocking the temple before Modi’s term ends.

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The Supreme Court has delayed hearings into the disputed site but hardliners have vowed to lay a foundation stone next year regardless.

“We don’t care about the courts. A grand temple will be constructed in 2019,” Sushil Chawdhary, a VHP leader, told AFP. (VOA)